How to Start
The best options are house-sitting directories. Keep in mind that most have fees involved. Another option could be to tell all your friends and family. This could be a great way to build up references in the beginning.
Some of my family have had some experience with a few of these directories but I’ve also done some research to find the best ones. Trusted house-sitters wins first place and is in bold below.
Caretakers Gazette ($30): Personally, the functionality of Caretakers gazette is much worse than the rest. First off, you can’t search for properties without a payment first. For those just getting into house-sitting, checking out the possibilities first is a big bonus. All the other directories allow you to look at properties before you pay the annual fee. Another problem is that there is no way to search for specific properties. Not even by country. You simply have to go through a list. You can find Caretakers Gazette on Facebook and Twitter @housesitter
Trusted house-sitters ($79) : This one is my favourite because you can search by date and country AND you can search before you commit to a membership. The site looks professional and is simple to use. As far as I know, this is one of the only sites that allows you to have a video on your profile, making it more intimate for people to meet you.They have Facebook, a blog and twitter @housesitting
If you’re looking for Australia-only, try Aussie house-sitters, which is $65. This site allows you to search by date, province, and keywords.
For America, try House-sitters America for $30, which allows you to search by state.
HOW DO YOU GET STARTED
- First off, if you’re interested in a particular location, you’ll need to scour the sites mentioned and decide which one you want to join, or join all of them. Your choice! One or two memberships isn’t a big deal when your scoring free accommodation around the world.
- You want to be the front of the pack. You’ll likely be competing with others who want the same place, but if you’re first, you’ll have the best chance. Sign up for a membership and get the email alerts so that you’re first to know about new listings. Make sure your profile and references are filled out and/or ready to go and follow your membership site on social media to learn about new opportunities immediately.
Okay, just like couch-surfing, you need to build an AWESOME profile that gives home-owners a feel for who you are.
- Choose a great picture that represents you and/or your couple.
- Make sure to include your name, age, nationality, profession and whether you’re an experienced house-sitter (if you own a home, this counts!), if you own pets or like pets, if you speak multiple languages, etc.
- Make your profile awesome so that home-owners can find you. I’ve had friends that have been approached directly from home-owners before they even list the property. This usually takes time and experience but it’s nice to know you have something to look forward to.
- Include a video if possible. This really makes it more intimate as home-owners can get a better feel for who you are.
Keep in mind that home-owners are looking for someone to look after their beloved pets and their expensive home. This means they need to trust you.
Make sure your references are ready to go. Not only is it good to have references via letters and emails but you’ll want to include contact information as well so that home-owners can actually talk to them.
If it’s your first time, make sure you have high-quality references to back you up.
- Other home-owners: if you have previously done any house-sitting jobs, you’ll want to state when you worked, how long, and what you had to do (such as take care of pets).
- Landlords: If you’re renting a place or have recently, get your landlord to write you a letter about how great you were at maintaining the home, etc.
- If you have ever taken care of pets before, get references from the pet owners as to how great you were at taking care of their loved ones.
- Anyone who can attest to who you are as a person, your trustworthiness and your reliability. Think past managers, colleagues, life-long friends, etc.
APPLY LIKE IT’S A JOB
Essentially, this is what it is. Someone is hiring you to take care of their house, pets, and whatever else they have. You need to write an excellent application about why they should choose you for the job. Read their listing completely and touch on anything you see that stands out.
If they have dogs, tell them how much you love dogs and how you will take care of their little animals.
Do they have a garden? Do you love gardens? Let them know that.
Just like couchsurfing, the first time is always the most difficult but as long as you have a great profile, references, and a remarkable application, you will score a house-sit eventually and it just gets easier from there!
Go the extra mile
- Email alerts. Sign up for these with the directories you become members of. This will help you keep up-to-date with new listings and it’s always good to be the first one to apply.
- Multiple “resumes”: Create a WORD document with more information about yourself to send to prospective home-owners once they pre-select you. You may even want to have an online profile such as an about.me account so that when they search your name on Google, your online resume shows up!
- Criminal record checks: Why not have one of these ready to go as well. This makes people feel much more comfortable.
Things You’ll Want to Know
Dates: Obviously, you’ll want to confirm dates but you can also ask if they would like you to come earlier or stay later. Maybe you would like to come earlier so you can meet them and let them show you around for a couple of days before you’re on your own.
Pets: If they have pets, ask all the questions you can about special food if required, what time they usually have their walks at, where they usually sleep, if they wake up early to pee, etc. If you have pets yourself, you probably know the drill.
Costs: At times, you might be required to pay for utilities. If this is the case, ask what they usually are and make sure you can budget for it.
Damage deposit: Some homeowners want a damage deposit incase something happens. It helps them feel more calm about everything. This is returned at the end providing there is no damage or missed bills.
Guests: Are you planning on having guests over? Ask if this is allowed.
Transportation: Are they providing you a car? Where is the bus stop? How much are taxis? Do they have bikes? Ask them all about this stuff.
Is it a Jail?: Kidding, but sometimes homeowners expect you there at all times. Others don’t mind if you leave for a day or two, especially with long-term stays. Ask this ahead and find out what they want.
The point of these questions is to ask everything before you take the job. Make sure you know what you need to do and who to call in an emergency. What happens if you need to go home because of an emergency? Ask to see a lot of pictures to get an idea of the place. Ask, ask, ask, and then ask one more time.
The first one is always the hardest but you’ll get better each time with knowing what to ask and what to do.
To be a good house-sitter, you just have to take care of the place and do the job you have agreed to do. If they need their lawn cut, cut the lawn. If they have dogs that go on two walks per day, take them for two walks per day. Create an agreement with the homeowners and abide by it. As you build up your references, it will be easier and easier to find opportunities all over the world.
Who knows, you may realize that you don’t even need your house anymore.